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By | on 25 March 2017

Find the best universities in the United States through Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

Stanford University, Best universities in the United States 2016
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Thinking about studying in the US can be overwhelming, especially since there are so many options of where to study.

Our own bespoke US college ranking launches later this year. However, we thought you might like to know which are the top universities in the US based on the highly respected Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017.

The best universities and colleges in the US number almost 150, and wherever you want to study in America, a top university will not be far away. Almost all the states are represented in the best US universities list. In total, 128 different cities appear in the ranking.

Resources: US university rankings

- Top universities in New York
- Top liberal arts colleges in the US
- US universities with the most international students
- Here's the US might be a good choice if you want to be rich
- Universities in the United States promoting social mobility
- Explore the best universities in Canada
- Further afield: Best universities in Europe

California and New York are the two most represented states among the best American universities with 12 universities each in the ranking, followed by Texas and Massachusetts with nine universities each.

The universities at the very top of the ranking are concentrated in these popular destinations that are well known for their higher education opportunities; the top five are based in California, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Resources: applying to the United States

- International student application guide
- American universities with late application deadlines
- Benefits of public universities v Ivy Leagues

Top 5 universities in the US

Scroll down to view the full table of the best American universities

1. California Institute of Technology

Relative to the tiny size of the student population, CalTech has an impressive number of successful graduates and affiliates, including 34 Nobel prizewinners, six Turing Award winners, five Fields Medalists and a number of national awards.

There are only 2,243 students at CalTech, and the primary campus in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, covers 124 acres. Almost all undergraduates live on campus.

Across the six faculties there is a focus on science and engineering; the university appears in the top 5 for engineering and technology (#2), physical sciences (#1), and life sciences (#5) rankings in 2016.

In addition to Nobel laureates and top researchers, the CalTech alumni community also includes a number of politicians and public advisers, particularly in positions that deal with science, technology and energy.

All first-year students belong to one of four houses as part of the university’s alternative model to fraternities. There are a number of house traditions and events associated with each house.

The university has the highest proportion of students who continue on to pursue a PhD, and the trope of the CalTech postgraduate has filtered into popular culture; all the main characters in the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory work or study at CalTech.

2. Stanford University

Based right next to Silicon Valley – or Palo Alto – Stanford has had a prominent role in encouraging the high-tech industry to develop in the area.

Many faculty members, students and alumni have founded successful technology companies and start-ups, including Google, Snapchat and Hewlett-Packard.

In total, companies founded by Stanford alumni make $2.7 trillion each year.

The university is often referred to as “the Farm”, as the campus was built on the site of the Stanford family’s Palo Alto Stock Farm. The campus covers 8,180 acres, but more than half the land is not yet developed.

With distinctive sand-coloured, red-roofed buildings, Stanford’s campus is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It contains a number of sculpture gardens and art museums in addition to faculty buildings and a public meditation centre.

As might be expected from one of the best universities in the world, Stanford is highly competitive. The admission rate currently stands at just over 5 per cent.

Of the 15,596 students – most of whom live on campus – 22 per cent are international.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A long-standing rival of CalTech, MIT also cultivates a strong entrepreneurial culture, which has seen many alumni found notable companies such as Intel and Dropbox.

Unusually, the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at MIT are not wholly separate; many courses can be taken at either level.

The undergraduate programme is one of the country’s most selective, admitting only 8 per cent of applicants. Engineering and computer science programmes are the most popular among undergraduates.

Thirty-three per cent of the 11,000 students are international, hailing from 154 different countries around the world.

Famous alumni include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and physicist Richard Feynman. Graduates are prevalent throughout science, politics, economics, business and media.

The university appears in the top 5 list in the Engineering and technology, physical sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities rankings published by Times Higher Education.

4. Harvard University

Harvard University is probably the best-known university in the world, coming top in the reputation rankings most years.

It was founded in 1636, and is the oldest higher education institution in the US.

There are currently 20,152 students enrolled, a quarter of whom are international. Although the cost of tuition is expensive, Harvard’s financial endowment allows for plenty of financial aid for students.

The Harvard Library system is made up of 79 different libraries and counts as the largest academic library in the world.

Among many famous alumni, Harvard can count eight US presidents, about 150 Nobel laureates, 13 Turing Award winners and 62 living billionaires.

Unlike some other universities at the top of the list, Harvard is at least equally as reputed for arts and humanities as it is for science and technology, if not more so. In the 2016 arts and humanities ranking, Harvard takes the second position, and secures top 10 positions for physical sciences, social sciences and engineering and technology.

5. Princeton University

Like Harvard, Princeton is a prestigious Ivy League university with a history stretching back more than 200 years.

Princeton’s distinctive social environment includes private “eating clubs” – which function as both social houses and dining halls. Many of the clubs are selective and competitive, but others simply require undergraduates to sign up.

There are fewer than 8,000 students enrolled at Princeton, and just over a quarter are international.

Princeton’s campuses, in New Jersey, are located about an hour away from both New York City and Philadelphia.

Degree courses have strictly specified requirements. All students are required to do independent research as part of their degrees, and some must take a foreign language course.

The application process is highly selective. Unlike most US universities, Princeton does not now offer an early decision application route.

Renowned Princeton alumni include US presidents, astronauts, businessmen, Olympians and numerous award-winners. Physicist Richard Feynman attended as a graduate student, as did mathematicians John Nash and Alan Turing.

Compare US universities with other regions:

- Best universities in Europe 2017
- Compare top Canadian universities
- Where do graduates face the most debt?

- Where are international postgraduates most satisfied?
- European universities competing with US in humanities
- Top universities in South America

Top universities in the United States 2017

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2016-2017 results

USA Rank 2017 World University Rank 2017 University State City
1 2 California Institute of Technology California Pasadena
2 3 Stanford University California Stanford
3 5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Cambridge
4 6 Harvard University Massachusetts Cambridge
5 7 Princeton University New Jersey Princeton
=6 =10 University of California, Berkeley California Berkeley
=6 =10 University of Chicago Illinois Chicago
8 12 Yale University Connecticut New Haven
9 13 University of Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Philadelphia
10 14 University of California, Los Angeles California Los Angeles
11 16 Columbia University New York State New York City
12 17 Johns Hopkins University Maryland Baltimore
13 18 Duke University North Carolina Durham
14 19 Cornell University New York State Ithaca
15 20 Northwestern University Illinois Evanston
16 21 University of Michigan Michigan Ann Arbor
17 23 Carnegie Mellon University Pennsylvania Pittsburgh
18 =25 University of Washington Washington Seattle
19 32 New York University New York State New York City
20 =33 Georgia Institute of Technology Georgia Atlanta
21 =36 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Illinois Champaign
22 41 University of California, San Diego California San Diego
23 45 University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Madison
24 48 University of California, Santa Barbara California Santa Barbara
25 50 University of Texas at Austin Texas Austin
=26 =51 Brown University Rhode Island Providence
=26 =51 University of California, Davis California Davis
28 53 University of Minnesota Minnesota Minneapolis
29 56 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill North Carolina Chapel Hill
30 =57 Washington University in St Louis Missouri St. Louis
31 =60 University of Southern California California Los Angeles
32 64 Boston University Massachusetts Boston
33 67 University of Maryland, College Park Maryland College Park
34 68 Pennsylvania State University Pennsylvania State College
35 70 Purdue University Indiana West Lafayette
36 =72 Ohio State University Ohio Columbus
37 =80 University of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Pittsburgh
=38 =82 Dartmouth College New Hampshire Hanover
=38 =82 Emory University Georgia Atlanta
40 87 Rice University Texas Houston
41 =98 University of California, Irvine California Irvine
42 101 Michigan State University Michigan East Lansing
43 =104 Georgetown University - Washington D.C.
44 108 Vanderbilt University Tennesee Nashville
45 =116 University of Colorado Boulder Colorado Boulder
46 =121 University of Virginia Virginia Charlottesville
47 =126 Case Western Reserve University Ohio Cleveland
48 131 Arizona State University Arizona Tempe
49 134 University of Florida Florida Gainesville
50 =135 Tufts University Massachusetts Medford
51 141 Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey New Jersey New Brunswick
52 143 University of Notre Dame Indiana Notre Dame
53 146 University of California, Santa Cruz California Santa Cruz
54 150 Indiana University Indiana Bloomington
55 =151 University of Rochester New York State Rochester (NY)
56 =156 University of Arizona Arizona Tuscon
=57 =165 University of California, Riverside California Riverside
=57 =165 University of Massachusetts Massachusetts Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, Worcester
59 169 Texas A&M University Texas College Station
=60 =182 Northeastern University Massachusetts Boston
=60 =182 University of Miami Florida Coral Gables
62 =198 Brandeis University Massachusetts Waltham
63 200 University of Illinois at Chicago Illinois Chicago
=64 201-250 Boston College Massachusetts Newton
=64 201-250 Florida State University Florida Tallahassee
=64 201-250 George Washington University - Washington D.C.
=64 201-250 North Carolina State University North Carolina Raleigh
=64 201-250 Stony Brook University New York State Stony Brook
=64 201-250 University of Cincinnati Ohio Cincinnati
=64 201-250 University of Delaware Delaware Newark (DE)
=64 201-250 University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Hawaii Honolulu
=64 201-250 University of Iowa Iowa Iowa City
=64 201-250 University of South Florida Florida Tampa
=64 201-250 University of Texas at Dallas Texas Richardson
=64 201-250 University of Utah Utah Salt Lake City
=64 201-250 Wake Forest University North Carolina Winston-Salem
=77 251-300 Colorado School of Mines Colorado Golden
=77 251-300 Oregon Health and Science University Oregon Portland
=77 251-300 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute New York State Troy
=77 251-300 Rush University Illinois Chicago
=77 251-300 Syracuse University New York State Syracuse
=77 251-300 University at Buffalo New York State Buffalo
=77 251-300 University of Tennessee, Knoxville Tennesee Knoxville
=77 251-300 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Virginia Blacksburg
=77 251-300 William & Mary Virginia Williamsburg
=86 301-350 Clark University Massachusetts Worcester
=86 301-350 Colorado State University Colorado Fort Collins
=86 301-350 George Mason University Virginia Fairfax
=86 301-350 Oregon State University Oregon Corvallis
=86 301-350 Saint Louis University Missouri St. Louis
=86 301-350 Temple University Pennsylvania Philadelphia
=86 301-350 University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Fairbanks
=86 301-350 University of Connecticut Connecticut Mansfield
=86 301-350 University of Denver Colorado Denver
=86 301-350 University of Georgia Georgia Athens
=86 301-350 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Nebraska Lincoln
=86 301-350 University of Oregon Oregon Eugene
=98 351-400 Binghamton University, State University of New York New York State Binghamton
=98 351-400 Drexel University Pennsylvania Philadelphia
=98 351-400 Iowa State University Iowa Ames
=98 351-400 Tulane University Louisiana New Orleans
=98 351-400 University of Houston Texas Houston
=98 351-400 University of Kansas Kansas Lawrence
=98 351-400 University of Kentucky Kentucky Lexington
=98 351-400 University of Missouri Missouri Columbia (MO)
=98 351-400 University of Oklahoma Oklahoma Norman
=98 351-400 University of Texas at San Antonio Texas San Antonio
=98 351-400 Washington State University Washington Pullman
=98 351-400 Wayne State University Michigan Detroit
=110 401-500 American University - Washington D.C.
=110 401-500 Florida International University Florida Miami
=110 401-500 Georgia State University Georgia Atlanta
=110 401-500 Kent State University Ohio Kent
=110 401-500 Lehigh University Pennsylvania Bethlehem
=110 401-500 New Mexico State University New Mexico Las Cruces
=110 401-500 Northern Arizona University Arizona Flagstaff
=110 401-500 San Diego State University California San Diego
=110 401-500 Stevens Institute of Technology New Jersey Hoboken
=110 401-500 University of Maryland, Baltimore County Maryland Baltimore
=110 401-500 University of Montana Montana Missoula
=121 501-600 Creighton University Nebraska Omaha
=121 501-600 Kansas State University Kansas Manhattan
=121 501-600 Louisiana State University Louisiana  Baton Rouge
=121 501-600 Missouri University of Science and Technology Missouri Rolla
=121 501-600 Montana State University Montana Bozeman
=121 501-600 New Jersey Institute of Technology New Jersey Newark (NJ)
=121 501-600 Oklahoma State University Oklahoma Stillwater
=121 501-600 Old Dominion University Virginia Norfolk
=121 501-600 State University of New York Albany New York State Albany
=121 501-600 University of Arkansas Arkansas Fayetteville
=121 501-600 University of Nebraska Medical Center Nebraska Omaha
=121 501-600 University of Texas at Arlington Texas Arlington
=121 501-600 University of Toledo Ohio Toledo
=121 501-600 University of Tulsa Oklahoma Tulsa
=121 501-600 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Wisconsin Milwaukee
=136 601-800 Auburn University Alabama Auburn
=136 601-800 Clemson University South Carolina Clemson
=136 601-800 Florida Institute of Technology Florida Melbourne
=136 601-800 Hofstra University New York State Hempstead
=136 601-800 Miami University Ohio Oxford
=136 601-800 Oakland University Michigan Rochester (MI)
=136 601-800 Ohio University Ohio Athens
=136 601-800 Rochester Institute of Technology New York State Rochester (NY)
=136 601-800 Texas Tech University Texas Lubbock
=136 601-800 University of North Carolina at Greensboro North Carolina Greensboro
=136 601-800 University of Texas at El Paso Texas El Paso
=147 801+ Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Florida Daytona Beach
=147 801+ University of Southern Mississippi Mississippi Hattiesburg

Resources: explore the rankings by subject

- Best universities for arts and humanities
- Best universities for life sciences


Publication date: 25 March 2017

Best universities in the United States 2017
Credit: DiasporaEngager ( , 25 March 2017
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